Stone worktops are suited to bedrooms and bathrooms as well as kitchens where they are most commonly found. Wherever you have them fitted in your home, they will provide excellent value for money. This is because, although stone worktops will set you back a bit more than laminated working surfaces, they will last a very long time indeed. Stone also has a one-of-a-kind appearance. Although you can obtain natural stone that has a very uniform look, it will always be unique. This means obtaining something that will fit in with your preferred interior décor style while also offering you something that is – and always will be – a one-off.
This is because natural stone is, as the name suggests, a natural material. It comes with all of the same unique qualities that the grain in a section of wood would, for example. And yet, it is because of the very fact that it is natural that many people wonder about how sustainable it is. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be safeguarding the natural environment these days? Well, if you look at the alternatives, such as man-made countertops, concrete work surfaces or porcelain worktops, then natural stone tends to come out very favourably.
Of course, using up any resource, whether it is man-made or completely natural, has an environmental impact. By far the most sustainable thing you could do in your kitchen, for instance, is to never have it refitted and continue to use the work surfaces you currently have. However, this is likely to be impractical in most homes. Old worktops don’t just look drab and need to be changed from an aesthetic point of view, after all. They end up trapping microbes and germs which means you could end up getting ill from them. Consequently, it is more a question of which is the most sustainable worktop material to opt for rather than whether to have new ones fitted at all.
While wooden worktops have their own environmental cost and porcelain work surfaces need a great deal of heat energy to manufacture, there are some other modern, man-made options also worth taking into account. However, none quite stand up to natural stone. Read on to find out more about the sustainability of natural stone as worktops. We’ll look at three of the most popular stones used in kitchens so you can make an informed decision about your next worktop purchase.
Like all other natural stones, granite is quarried. This means there is an undeniable environmental impact because there is an energy cost associated with getting it out of the ground as well as the hole that is left behind once it is removed. However, it is important not to overestimate this cost. Most granite quarries have been around for decades – centuries in some cases – so they are run efficiently and don’t create a blot on the natural landscape.
Even better, granite worktops can be cut to size and processed with very little energy. Compared to certain man-made worktops, it has hardly any carbon footprint at all in terms of its manufacturing. After all, mother nature has done most of the work millions of years ago. Next comes the carbon that is associated with the transportation of granite. True, it is a heavy material but because granite is quarried from sites all over the UK, it doesn’t need to travel far, certainly not by air freight which has the greatest impact on sustainability. In other words, you don’t have to worry unduly about air pollution or the excessive use of fossil fuels.
Finally, granite can be cut to size for you on site so there is very little wastage, another good thing for its sustainability credentials. Once it has been professionally sealed, it will provide many years of germ-free use and, after resealing, it’ll continue to perform for decades. As a very durable material, you won’t blemish it easily so replacing it soon after installation – another problem for sustainability – is very unlikely indeed.
Like granite, marble is quarried which means that there is a degree of energy consumption involved. Given that people have been hewing marble out of hillsides by hand for millennia, however, it does not take a huge amount of energy to extract it. Marble is relatively easy to cut and shape which is why it is so favoured by sculptors, of course. That said, very little marble is found in the UK so it needs to be transported by rail or road from places like North Italy where it is found in abundance.
As a natural stone, marble makes for a gleaming worktop appearance that won’t go out of fashion. This is an important point to make about its sustainability since materials which are no longer trendy tend to get ripped out prematurely. It requires no additives or manufacturing processes so, once it is cut to shape, there are zero carbon costs associated with it. The only minor drawback that this luxurious material has is that it can stain, especially if exposed to acidic substances. So long as you wipe these up immediately, you can expect many, many years of continued worktop usage from marble.
The first thing to say about quartz is that, like granite, it constitutes a finite resource. However, it is not in short supply and it is found all over the world. For a natural material, it is, therefore, a very good choice. Nevertheless, where it is quarried will depend on its environmental impact. In some places, higher levels of water consumption are needed in the extraction process than others.
Bear in mind that quartz is not used to form worktops in its own right. It is usually ground down into a powder which makes transporting it from its quarry site to its production facility relatively carbon neutral. Once it has been checked for quality control, quartz is then combined with resins. The exact quantities differ from manufacturer to manufacturer but a typical quartz kitchen worktop will be about 10 per cent resin and polymer. These materials are derived from oil which pushes the carbon footprint up of this natural stone.
Still, it is worth noting that quartz worktops are predominantly made from a largely sustainable material. As they’re non-porous, you don’t have to seal them or reseal them, either. This means that once installed, their long expected lifespan should more than make up for the use of unsustainable materials in their production.
Natural stone is a largely sustainable material to use in your home. Different natural stones have pros and cons with regard to their longevity and their impact on the wider environment. That’s why it is worth obtaining natural stone worktops from experts who know exactly where their products have been processed and the carbon footprint of each.
For more information on stone worktops please visit The Only Ways Granite